The UItimate Recovery Workout for Cyclists

306564_10151375190684095_974970324_nMost of the people I know who ride a bike go out on the weekends and absolutely kill it on Saturday and Sunday. This means on Mondays their legs are shot and strength training can very easily slide down the priority scale. When, in reality, it should be at the top of the list, and here’s why:

  • Hours spent in a seated position.
  • Hours spent in a seated position dynamically flexing at the hips.
  • Hours spent in the seated position shortening the front half of the body.
  • Hours spent in the seated position with your range of motion dictated for you, which we know your body hates.

Notice each sentence gets longer with btw. There’s a lot more to riding a bike than pushing the pedals down so it goes forward.

I could probably list another 30-40 reasons why your glutes need to be in a weight room on a Monday morning after riding all weekend, but I’ll digress and give you what you were promised: The Ultimate Recovery Workout For Cyclists.

Its not that hard, you don’t have to crush yourself, you just need to essentially undo what you did over the weekend with the RIGHT exercises. And by right I mean NOT doing more things that hit the muscles of the front half of the body in a flexed position.

So leave out crunches, V-Ups, hanging leg raises (most people don’t do these right and turn a perfectly good lower abdomen exercise into “hip flexor ups”) and pretty much anything that is knee dominant.

This is where it helps to know someone who knows how cyclists break, how to fix it them and how to get them pretty damn strong. Again, I know of such a guy.

Crush’em on the weekends, rebuild’em on Monday

If you blew your legs out over the weekend with knee dominant single leg activity pushing down your pedals, the fix is to is to do glute/hip dominant work primarily on two legs to give those movement patterns a break on Monday. You also need to work the core and posterior chain (back half of the body) and you need to work it standing on either two legs or in a split stance.

More seated work to undo seated work won’t do you any good, and besides, you should always stand to train whenever possible, its much better for you (“Seated Machines: Yes or No”).

Floor based activity will not help as much as being on your feet. Preferably working diagonal loading patterns between the right hip/left shoulder and left hip/right shoulder. This means push, pull and hinge. I’d probably lump in anti-rotation work here too (“Anti-Rotation Holds: A Great Way to Keep Your Back Happy”).

The best exercises to do

The best way to go about getting ready to kill it on the bike again on Tuesday is to do the following exercises. They are anti-cycling exercises and they WILL help put you back together.

Loaded Carries

This is an amazing exercise for everyone, but especially for cyclists in particular (“The Best Exercises Ever Part II: Farmer’s Walks”). The biggest reason is that it crushes the core without doing the same to the legs. If you ride a bike, and you aren’t doing these, you are missing out on a huge opportunity to get stronger without zapping strength/power out of the legs.

On Mondays, I like doing offset carries (heavier in one hand than the other) in the hang and rack positions. The reason being this method works my obliques/diagonals really well, and if you think of ham and eggs, it is the eggs of lower body exercises.

Meaning, in that breakfast scenario, the pig is committed and the chicken is involved. With loaded carries, the core and arms are committed and the legs are involved.

With the amount of variations this exercise has coupled with the benefits it provides, it can’t be left out if you ride a bike.

Cable Pull Throughs: Kettlebell Swings Lite

Again, cycling is a sagittal plane (front half of the body) single knee dominant activity in the seated position, that shortens the chest and shoulder muscles while stretching out the upper back. Look at most cyclists coming back from a 3-4 hour ride, and you’ll have a good opportunity to see this.

To undo that, you go with a hip dominant standing activity on two legs and I can’t think of one better than the cable pull through (“The Best Post Ride Exercises: Do These Post Ride, Obtain Awesome”). It can be done at a gym with cable pulleys or at home with exercise bands.

You’ll bring your spinal erectors (the muscles that hold your trunk in place when you climb and descend) and lower traps (the muscles that help keep your shoulders from hiking up) back online, you hit the glutes (more like crush, but we want this if you ride a bike) and hammies, the core and every muscle from head to heel in the back half of your body.

And if you ride all weekend crushing the front half of your body with knee dominant activity, you better be hitting the back with a hips/glutes focus.

Also keep in mind you ride in a relatively static position, this one is dynamic making it a great way to undo that. Plus, if your shoulder hike up when you ride, you’ll lose a lot power from the lats and core to hold your trunk in position under load.

The key here is to make sure you own your rib cage position as Tony Gentilcore says and not let them flare up away from the hips.

Split Stance Bent Over Single Arm Cable Rows

This exercise uses a hip dominant base, loads the glutes a ton and forces the core to diagonally stabilize while using the back muscles to pull. Plus, you’ll hit the loading patterns of the opposite leg push and opposite arm pull that you do out of the saddle. Can you say JACKPOT!

I like using a cable pulley better because I’ve seen it loaded, stabilized and moved better than doing the same thing with a free weight. Love free weights, but let’s stack the deck in your favor in the gym after a hard weekend of riding.

Split Stance Kneeling Single Arm Cable Press

I like this one because you get into position that not only activates the glutes but it can go a long way to stretching out the hip flexors too. Since we know what cycling does to these muscles, this is a very good thing (“Go Slower, Break Faster”).

Again, diagonal core, shoulder stabilization, glute activation and hip flexor lengenthing, or all of the things a cyclist needs to ride well.

Split Stance Kneeling Anti-Rotation Holds

LOVE this exercise. You get all of the benefits of a plank while activating your diagonals (anyone sensing a theme here?) and hammering the glutes. Plus it actually goes a long way to restoring thoracic mobility (mid back) without having to specifically do things for it.

Its pretty hard to do wrong and you’ll get the hip flexor benefit from the kneeling position.

Honorable Mention

Lateral Lunges: great exercise to open up the hips in the frontal (side to side, yeah, I know, doesn’t make sense) plane, but involves knee dominant lower body movement.
Turkish Get Ups: The mother load of all exercises. It hits EVERYTHING you move with in EVERY plane of motion that it moves. However it requires really good mid back and shoulder mobility to hold a weight in the overhead position. I’ve worked with cyclists since 2006, and overhead shoulder/mid back mobility is typically something that needs to be cultivated rather than taxed right away. If you can’t hold an arm over head in a STRAIGHT line from the ankle–>knee–>hip–>shoulder–>middle of the ear without your back arching, elbow bending or head jutting out, this isn’t the exercise for you.

How do you put them together?

Those are really the only exercises you need on a Monday to put yourself back together. Or are they?

Since I’m now a huge fan of Tim Anderson’s “Original Strength” model, I’m going to add in crawling, rolling patterns, hip rocking, cross crawling and head nods to this workout in the warm up. It works well as as a cool down in the gym and post ride too for that matter.

I’ve used this method post ride to put me back together and I feel it has worked better for ME (my individual experience mind you) than foam rolling and stretching.

If you got down this far, I applaud your tenacity to wanting the ultimate way to feel better after a long weekend of riding. Your reward is what this workout should look like.

Keep in mind you should ALWAYS get an eval and then clearance from your doctor, physical therapist, strength trainer or sports chiropractor BEFORE you start a new exercise program.

Once you get that, here’s how the workout shakes down.

Warmup (:30-:45 x 2 laps)

  • Standing cross crawls
  • Rolling patterns
  • Hip rocks
  • Head nods
  • Crawling forward and backward
  • Head to Tim Anderson’s “Original Strength” YouTube channel to see these.


Workout (3-4 laps, :30-:45 secs of work, :30-:60 of recovery)

Offset loaded carries in the hang position
Offset loaded carries in the rack position
Cable pull throughs (don’t go nuts with the load here, just enough to activate the muscles mentioned)
Split stance bent over rows
Split stance kneeling single arm press
Split stance kneeling anti-rotation holds

Cool down

  • 1-2 laps of the warm up

That my friends is the Ultimate Recovery Workout for Cyclists. I’ve used it on myself, my clients do variations of this workout when they come in and it works. Very well.

Thanks for reading!